The leader of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party gave up her nomination for next month's parliamentary elections Friday, buckling under pressure to step down following revelations her aides attempted to tamper with a crucial voter survey.
Rep. Lee Jung-hee was selected as a single opposition candidate in Seoul's Gwanak district after defeating her rival from the main opposition Democratic United Party in the telephone survey. She was under public pressure to drop the nomination, however, after two of her aides were found to have attempted to rig the survey.
"Lee made this decision after taking various situations into consideration," a party official said without elaborating. She reportedly held in-depth discussions Thursday night with Moon Jae-in, a senior main opposition party official considered a potential presidential candidate.
The telephone survey was held as part of an alliance agreement between the two opposition parties to field unified candidates in key districts in the April 11 polls in order to avoid splitting opposition votes against candidates from the ruling Saenuri Party.
Lee, a lawyer-turned-lawmaker who has built an image as a "clean" politician, immediately apologized over the revelations, but previously refused to give up the nomination, claiming she had no knowledge of the rigging while placing all blame on the aides.
She previously demanded that a new survey be held to determine a candidate.
Her refusal to give up the nomination sparked strong protests not only from her rival in the Gwanak district, but also from candidates from other districts where the two parties agreed to field single candidates, raising concerns the alliance could ultimately fall apart.
The two campaign aides were found to have sent mobile phone text messages asking party members to lie about their ages if they received automated survey calls made randomly on Saturday and Sunday to ask voters in the constituency which hopeful they favor.
The survey was designed to select the winner by putting together responses from different age groups of voters, and Lee's aides attempted to boost her ratings among younger age groups, apparently on tips that enough responses from higher-aged groups had already been collected.